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Jonesboro, Clayton County discussing fire agreement

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Five years after Clayton County began providing fire-protection services to the City of Jonesboro, county officials and the city's mayor are in negotiations over a possible renewal.

"The contract with the county to provide fire services has expired [in January] and we're in the process of negotiations," Mayor Luther Maddox said Thursday afternoon.

Earlier on Thursday, Clayton County Chief of Staff and Fire Chief Alex Cohilas, Maddox, and attorneys from the county and the city, met at the Clayton County Administration Building to renegotiate the terms of the city's fire services agreement. The county has provided fire protection for the city since January 2005, immediately following the Jonesboro City Council's decision to disband its volunteer fire department.

"I'd rather not negotiate in the newspaper. There are a lot of things to discuss," said Maddox, when asked about the status of the fire-protection talks.

Both Cohilas and Maddox were mum on details of the negotiations.

"Since neither I, or the Mayor can speak for the City Council, it would [be] inappropriate to comment before they have been fully apprised of the facts and had the opportunity to discuss [the] same," Cohilas said in an e-mail late Thursday.

According to the 2005 agreement, the City of Jonesboro entered into a mutual aid agreement with the county fire department on Jan. 10, 2005.

Instead of billing the city, Jonesboro agreed to pay for the service by allowing the county to place its residents within the county's fire tax district. As part of the agreement, the county agreed to lease the Jonesboro Fire Station (presently Clayton County Fire Department Station No. 13) for $40,000 per year, according to the service agreement.

On May 1, 2006, the City of Jonesboro earned a Class 3 Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating -- a year and a half after the county assumed control of fire-protection services from the city. According to Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Battalion Chief Landry Merkison, the rating was an improvement from the city's Class 6 ISO rating in 2005, and contributed to lower property insurance costs for Jonesboro residents.

Maddox said discussions from the negotiations with the county will be presented to the Jonesboro City Council on Monday.